Support Spotlight: Center for Career and Professional Development Crafts Road Map for Postgraduate and Career Success

Support Spotlight: Center for Career and Professional Development Crafts Road Map for Postgraduate and Career Success

Support Spotlight: Center for Career and Professional Development Crafts Road Map for Postgraduate and Career Success

Balancing a full course load, responsibilities at home, and searching for an internship or job opportunity can feel overwhelming. Luckily, the Center for Career and Professional Development is eager to help John Jay students through the process. Providing students with direct access to workshops on how to craft the perfect resume, strategies to ace an interview, and professional networking opportunities, the Center encourages students every step of the way, giving them the resources they need for post-graduate and career success. “The one thing we always hear from our employer partners is that they’re looking for people who have the skills and experiences that are relevant to the position they’re hiring for. This means it’s essential that our students participate in experiential learning and internship opportunities while they’re at John Jay, so that they can obtain the skills and knowledge that align with their career goals. That’s where we come in,” says Chantelle Wright, Director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. “Through our one-on-one counseling sessions, weekly online workshops, and career programming, we can help students expand their professional portfolio, build up their confidence, and ensure they’re ready to find a career that aligns with their major and interests.”

We sat down with Wright, and Katheryn Crawford, Associate Director for Experiential Learning, to learn more about the services offered by the Center for Career and Professional Development and how they can guide students to a successful career path.

(left to right) Chantelle Wright and Katheryn Crawford
(left to right) Chantelle Wright and Katheryn Crawford

When is the best time for a student to begin the career planning process?

Wright: We suggest that students come to the Career Center from the moment they start their John Jay journey. They can make an appointment with a career counselor and get started with the career planning process immediately.

“We suggest that students come to the Career Center from the moment they start their John Jay journey.” —Chantelle Wright

What services and resources does the Center for Career and Professional Development provide students?

Wright: At the Career Center, we provide students with a suite of opportunities to prepare them for their professional life while they’re in John Jay and beyond. This means internships, volunteer opportunities, fellowships, and connecting them with scholarships. We assist students in preparing their professional documents, such as their resume and cover letter, and their interview preparation. We are keen on connecting students with work opportunities and ensuring that they’re able to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to their postgraduate and career plans.

How can students learn more about these career opportunities and how can they access your services?

Crawford: We send students emails often and post regularly on our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts letting students know about upcoming events, career chats, employment opportunities and we spotlight potential employers. With the pandemic, we’ve switched over to a virtual model, so students can access all of our upcoming events, programming, and employer partners through our online portal at John Jay Careers Online. There they can also schedule a one-on-one appointment with a career counselor and access our database which has all our partnerships, internships, and work opportunities posted.

Our career counselors will spend time with students, helping them create or go through their resume and cover letter, teaching them job search tips, and assisting in the development of the professional portfolio. We also do weekly workshops throughout the semester on how to create an effective resume and cover letter, and we do interview preparation and support students in preparing their LinkedIn profile.

“We want to make sure students have a clear sense of their postgraduate plans and know that career planning is an essential part of academic development and future success.” —Chantelle Wright

How does the Center work with other departments and teams to keep students on track for their career goals?

Wright: We work very closely with groups like the Urban Male Initiative (UMI), all the cohort programs such as LEAP, and academic advisors to ensure students stay on track with their career planning by meeting certain goals, participating in career programming, and career events. We want to make sure students have a clear sense of their postgraduate plans and know that career planning is an essential part of academic development and future success. Currently, the Center is working closely with UMI, launching a new mentorship program for men of color. And, in collaboration with LEAP, we’re offering a new micro-internship program. These are two- to three-week internships with organizations such as South Bronx United, Strategic Security, Avenues for Justice, and STRIVE. Students can spend a total of 10 hours supporting real organization projects that include: marketing campaign development, social media, research, and database management. Students can apply online at John Jay Careers Online.

“We really encourage students to create a four-year career development plan, which creates a road map that leads them to more work experiences each year.” —Katheryn Crawford

Career planning can feel like a tough process for students, how does the Center help facilitate the process?

Crawford: It’s all about career planning and exploration for students, especially early on in their college experience, that’s why we suggest they make an appointment with us. We really encourage our students to design a four-year career development plan, which creates a road map, with attainable goals, that can lead them to more work and internship experiences each year. So, with freshmen we suggest they participate in on-campus opportunities, attend workshops, and start developing their resume. During their sophomore year, we want students to look at internship or volunteering opportunities and attend information sessions with professionals in their field of interest. When they’re in their junior year we want those internship experiences to continue, we want students to participate in career fairs, and begin networking in the field. And, during their senior year, we want them to begin planning for graduate school or engage in an active job search during the fall semester.

If a student comes to your Center in search of a work opportunity, how would the Center help them, what would that process look like?

Wright: If the student is a freshman who has no prior work experience, we would typically advise them to participate in on-campus opportunities, like working on campus or being part of a student organization. We recommend this because it gives students a way to get used to what it’s like to engage in a work environment that is also in a very safe space. But if the student is ready for an off-campus work opportunity, then we’ll start by working on their resume. Getting a sense of what classes the student has taken, what experiences and skills they’re bringing to this new opportunity. Once we get a sense of that, we can integrate that into their resume.

The next step is working with the student to identify their interest and ensure it’s aligned with what they want to ultimately do as a career. So, if the student is a Forensic Psychology major or if the student is interested in a social work opportunity, we’ll help find work opportunities that match that focus, and those are the work opportunities we suggest they apply to. Then we’ll work with the student to develop a cover letter that is tailored for the specific position, integrating the skills and knowledge into the cover letter. Then they apply to the position. When they get a call from the employer asking them to come in for an interview, we’ll then do interview preparation, mock interviews, and help them find the right interview attire. We find that some students need support figuring out what business casual and business formal look like.

For a student interested in an internship or experiential learning opportunity, how would the Center help prepare them to find these opportunities?

Crawford: The search for internships is very similar to the job search process. We look over the student’s resume and figure out what they’re interested in, what are the skills they’re hoping to develop, and what are the experiences they want to have to support them on their professional development and career journey. Having these conversations is really important for us and for the student. We also encourage students to take an internship course at John Jay whether it’s through their major or through our department. An internship course makes a connection between what students are learning in class and integrates that with what they do out in the field. Internship courses give students mentorship because the faculty is working to incorporate career knowledge and skills into what they’re teaching—and at the end of the course, students earn three credits and gain real-world knowledge of the field. The pandemic has made it tough for in-person, in-the-field internships to take place, but there are virtual internship opportunities available and we encourage students to apply to them.

In what ways can John Jay alumni use the Center to advance their careers?

Wright: Every single service that our students have access to, our alumni also have access to. They can use our database. They’re able to meet with any one of our counselors. They even have access to our career fairs and workshop sessions. So, if they want to transition to a new role or a new career, and they need support, we’re here to help. If alumni want to set up a one-on-one career counseling session, they need to contact our administrative coordinator, Betsy Gonzalez, who will match them with the counselor and set up the appointment—this is one of the few areas where the experience is different for alumni since current students can request an appointment and register for workshops and events directly through John Jay Careers Online. We work with alumni a lot. Not long ago we did a mock interview event where recent alumni provided students with constructive resume critiques.

“Every single service that our students have access to, our alumni also have access to.” —Chantelle Wright

Are there any myths or misconceptions about the services offered by the Center that you’d like to talk about?

Wright: I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that we only help students at the end of their John Jay journey. We are here to support students from the moment they become a John Jay student, from the very beginning whether they’re a freshman or a transfer student. Students should start engaging in career planning as soon as they start at John Jay and that means spending time to explore their options, explore the careers that exist and align with their major.

Crawford: The motto for our office is really to support students and teach them how to “fish.” I think a big misconception, especially on the internship side, is that we’re placing students in work or internship positions. We’re not a placement office, so we can’t guarantee placement, but we are very intentional about supporting students and teaching them the skills they need to be successful. We’re teaching students how to apply for the job they want, how to prepare a stellar professional portfolio, how to ace that interview, and how to be ready for the job or career of their dreams in the best way possible.